Comparing USL-Pro and NASL Schedules from 2012 and 2013

On January 10, NASL released their 2013 Spring Regular Season schedule.  The schedule is a balanced format in which each of the 7 teams play each other team twice, once at home and once away.  A team will play each team once before playing any team a second time.  There will be three matches a week with one team having a bye each weekend.  The last matchday will be the Fourth of July, a Thursday, and FC Edmonton will have a bye that day.

2012′s NASL schedule was also a balanced format with each team playing the other 7 teams 4 times during the regular season (as was 2011′s).

Division III USL-Pro’s 2012 schedule was notably messier by comparison.  Each team played 24 matches, 12 at home and 12 away, but the placement of those matches raised a few eyebrows.

As an example, the Rochester Rhinos played 5 of their first 6 games on the road and then finished the season with 5 straight at home with 8 out of the last 10 games in Rochester.  The Rhinos started their season with two games against LA Blues on successive weekends.  After that the team had to play back-to-back nights in different cities twice (meaning they played in Charlotte Friday and then in Charleston the next night, and then in Harrisburg before playing in Dayton the following night).

A closer look at USL-Pro’s 2012 schedule:
Rochester had two instances of matches on back-to-back nights [May 11&12, May 25&26], and two instances of two games in three nights [June 15&17, July 12&14]

Richmond had three instances of games on back-to-back nights [Jun 1&2, June 15&16, July 27&28] and one instance of two games in three nights [Aug 17&19 (at Antigua)].

Dayton had three instances of back-to-back games [May 18&19, July 20&21, Aug 17&18] and two instances of two games in three nights [Jun 15&17 (at LA), July 18&20], which means Dayton had a game on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the same week all in different cities.

Charlotte had five instances of back-to-back matches [May 4&5, July 6&7, July 27&28, Aug 10&11, Aug 18&19], though one was due to a rescheduled match against Wilmington, and one instance of two games in three nights [Apr 26&28 (at Antigua]

Pittsburgh had three instances of games on back-to-back nights [Apr 27&28, July 13&14
July 20&21], and three instances of two games in three nights [Apr 6&8 (at Antigua), May 16&18, July 4&6]

Orlando had one instance of games on back-to-back nights [June 29&30], and four instances of two games in three nights [May 11&13 (at Antigua), July 6&8 (at LA), July 25&27, Aug 1&3]

Charleston had two instances of back-to-back matches [July 6&7, Aug 3&4] and two instances of two games in three nights [May 31&June 2, June 29&July 1].

Harrisburg had three instances of back-to-back games [Apr 20&21, Jun 22&23, July 6&7] and two instances of two games in three days [July 18&20, Aug 17&19 (at LA)].  In addition Harrisburg played 6 straight games at home 7 out of 8.

Wilmington had four instances of back-to-back matches [June 8&9, June 22&23, Aug 3&4, Aug 18&19], thought one was due to a rescheduled match with Charlotte, and three instances of two games in three nights, one of which was three games in five nights [May 2&4&6, July 12&14]

Los Angeles had two instances of back-to-back games [May 11&12, July 27&28], and eight instances of two games in three nights [May 4&6 (at home), May 24&26, June 15&17 (at home), June 28&30, July 6&8 (at home), July 12&14 (in FL vs Antigua), Aug 9&11 (at home), Aug 17&19 (at home)]

Antigua has one instance of back-to-back games [Aug 3&4], and ten instances of two games in three days [Apr 6&8 (at home), Apr 26&28 (at home), May 2&4, May 11&13 (at home), June 15&17, June 29&July 1 (at home), July 12&14 (as home team in FL), July 27&29, Aug 9&11 (at LA), Aug 17&19 (at home)].  Only two games all season were not a part of this grueling pattern.

In comparison with NASL:
Despite only starting a week before USL-Pro in 2012, NASL was able to avoid injury-threatening schedule congestion by increasing their season a month longer (Sept 23 vs Aug 19).  Through the course of their 28-game season, NASL managed to never schedule games on consecutive nights for its teams.  In fact, NASL teams never played a game in 2012 regular season on less than two full days’ rest.

Carolina and Atlanta both had matches on Saturday June 30 before meeting on Tuesday July 3.  Puerto Rico played at Fort Lauderdale on Saturday September 8 before playing at Minnesota Tuesday September 11, while Minnesota hosted Edmonton on the 8th as well.  In the one Thursday night match of the season, Minnesota hosted Tampa Bay on July 12.  Tampa Bay then visited Edmonton that Sunday on July 15.

There were 14 Wednesday night matches and of the 28 times teams played on a Wednesday night, on only 7 occasions had the team played the previous Sunday, 19 times the team had played that Saturday before, 1 time the team had played the prior Thursday, and once the team hadn’t played since the previous Wednesday night.  Never did a team play the Monday or Tuesday directly preceding a Wednesday match.

For the 28 times a team played on Wednesday night, on 17 occasions team next played on Saturday, while 6 times the team’s next game was on Sunday, and there 5 instances when after playing on a Wednesday the team did not have a match the immediate weekend.  Never did a team play the Friday or Thursday directly following a Wednesday match.

Playing 2 games within the space of 4 days occured 29 times in NASL’s 2012 schedule, which makes for an average of 3.63 instances per team.  2013 will not feature any such scheduling congestion and provides ample time for rest, training, and peak performances.

USL-Pro 2013 Schedule:
Rochester
has four instances of back-to-back games [April 13 & 14, April 19 &20, May 31 & June 1, August 16 & 17] and has three instances of two games in three days [June 14 & 16, July 4 & 6, July 19 & 21].

Los Angeles has one instance of back-to-back games [May 17 & 18] and four instances of two games in three days [April 19 & 21, May 5 & 7, May 31 & June 2, July 4 & 6].  In addition Los Angeles has two occasions in which they play three games inside one week, firstly July 6, 10, and 13, and secondly July 21, 24, and 27.

Tampa Bay has two instances of back-to-back games [June 21 & 22, August 10 & 11] and four instances of two games in three days [June 7 & 9, June 14 & 16, July 26 & 28, August 2 & 4].

Pittsburgh has two instances of back-to-back games [April 26 & 27, August 2 & 3] and four instances of two games in three days [May 3 & 5, June 21 & 23, July 4 & 6, August 9 & 11].  In addition Pittsburgh plays three games inside of one week on August 11, 14, and 17.

Richmond has four instances of back-to-back games [May 3 & 4, June 28 & 29, July 12 & 13, August 2 & 3] and two instances of two games in three days [July 19 & 21 & 23].  This means that Richmond has a match on each of Friday, Sunday, and Tuesday of the same week.

Orlando has two instances of back-to-back games [May 17 & 18, August 3 & 4] and two instances of two games in three days [June 7 & 9, July 3 & 5 ],  In addition Orlando has three games inside one week on August 11, 14, and 17.

Charlotte has three instances of back-to-back games [June 21 & 22, June 28 & 29, August 16 & 17] and two instances of two games in three days [May 23 & 25, July 4 & 6]

Charleston has two instances of back-to-back games [June 15 & 16, August 2 & 3] and three instances of two games in three days [May 1 & 3, July 11 & 13, August 8 & 10]

Harrisburg has zero instances of back-to-back games and one instance of two games in three days [August 1 & 3].

Phoenix has one instance of back-to-back games [June 28 & 29] and two instances of two games in three days [May 9 & 11, June 7 & 9]

Dayton has four instances of back-to-back games [April 26 & 27, July 13 & 14, July 19 & 20, August 9 & 10 ] and four instances of two games in three days [June 21 & 23, July 4 & 6, July 24 & 26, August 2 & 4].  Dayton also has a period of six games within 2 weeks.

Wilmington has three instances of back-to-back games [May 10 & 11, May 24 & 25, July 19 & 20] and two instances of two games in three days [April 26 & 28, August 2 & 4].  In addition, Wilmington plays three matches inside of one week on June 30, July 3, and 6.

Antigua has three instances of back-to-back games [April 19 & 20, May 3 & 4, May 10 & 11] and nine instances of two games in three nights [May 24 & 26, June 7 & 9, June 14 & 16, June 21 & 23, July 4 & 6, July 11 & 13 & 15, July 26 & 28, August 15 & 17].  Only three of Antigua’s games all season are not a part of these sequences and all of their matches are on the road this year.

The average across the league for back-to-back games in a season is 2.38, down from 2.64 in 2012.  For instances of two games in three nights, the league average is 3.23 for 2013, which is also down from 2012′s 3.45.

Notable also, which Chad Hollingsworth points out in his post, USL-Pro now employs a balanced schedule in the sense that each team plays each other team twice.  The league employs a home and away format with the exception of Antigua, which will play all of its 2013 games on the road.

Another unsettling feature of this schedule, however, is the clustering and congesting of matches despite a “balanced” format.  Los Angeles, for example, only plays 2 games in the month of June and Orlando plays just 3 times that month.  Meanwhile, Antigua and Dayton each have 8 games during July.  Tampa Bay plays just twice in the month of May while cramming 8 games into June.  This is not to say the schedule isn’t an overall improvement, but it shows that there is still progress to be made with regard to optimizing the schedule for performance and development.

While perhaps not meaningful in the long-run, NASL may have an argument to attract professional players.  In addition to stronger and more experienced referees, NASL can offer the proper rest between matches that USL-Pro can not match at this time.  While it is unreasonable to vilify USL-Pro over this, both can be seen as the growing pains of not seeking Division II sanctioning and accepting the de facto Division III status.

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